Strike Back: Vengeance (Season 3) – when a billionaire acquires four nuclear triggers in order to re-shape Africa, only section 20 can stop him. Continuing with the UK/US collaboration, this takes everything that worked about ‘Project Dawn’ and made it all bigger/louder/better. Every episode is wall to wall action; with dozens of set pieces, hundreds of deaths, and a load of whiz-bang sex scenes. The entire season is 100mph, and it’s simply great fun. The characters feel more rounded, the leads’ chemistry is fantastic, and it’s very professionally made – but things like ‘character development’, ‘plot’, and ‘direction‘ are background noise to the explosions, gunfights, stunt driving, and spec ops that march the show forward. It’s hard to believe that such a ridiculously intense level of action (huge set pieces every 10 mins or so) can be done on a TV budget – the 10 episodes are paired off into FIVE 90-minute long mini missions that run together. In a world of toned down and heavily edited 12-rated action films, the swearing, sex, and sensational action makes this feel like something from ‘the good old days’. Completely knowing, and aimed directly at young male action fans, Strike Back Vengeance is a show that only really does one thing (infinite ammo, high-octane action turned up to 11), but does it brilliantly – making it a truly unmissable show for action fans
Narcos (Season 1): two D.E.A. agents try to take down the world’s most notorious criminal – Pablo Escobar; a humble weed smuggler who became the wealthiest criminal in history. This feels like a mix between a high-production TV series, and a documentary – with dozens of long sections of expositional dialogue, archive footage, and additional information explaining (in great detail) external factors leading to some of the plot points. Even though this wasn’t particularly slavish to the historical facts; the continual reliance on archive footage makes it feel like it’s handicapping the story to non-fiction only. The ‘Original’ stuff is all brilliantly shot and written: and doesn’t shy away from the nasty side of the drug trade and organised crime; there’s plenty of blood, guts, sex, and violence in here for added authenticity. This is matched by a handful of fantastic lead performances from a cast of relatively unknown actors, who set the screen on fire. In fact, my only real gripe with watching Narcos is trying to figure out how long has passed between scenes – at one point a baby becomes a proper kid in the next scene, but Escobar is still running for election! Season 1 (10 Episodes) covers 43 out of 44 years of Escobar’s life in sufficient detail; leaving the worry that season 2 will be padded out or overly dramatised: 10-12 episodes could have made this a great one-off. Narcos is a gangster / crime epic that’s up there with the best of them: it’s is smart, thoroughly engaging, and truly addictive TV; adding another string to Netflix’s bow. Netflix and Chill? More like Narcos and Kill!!1!11!! AMIRITE?!?
Brick: when his ex-girlfriend goes missing, a teenager goes prodding around in his school’s underbelly to try to find some answers. Given the high school setting and the film’s leanings towards a Noir detective story – where everything down to the dialogue & clothing of feels old-timey – you don’t really get many films with such a uniquely stamped style and feel. Borrowing so heavily from the Noir genre starts off quite refreshing, but becomes borderline tedious and annoying by the end – it’s also the film’s biggest downfall that anybody remotely familiar with the genre will see the major twist way, way before it’s revealed. The olde vernacular and slang-heavy dialogue also flips and flops between cool and stupid, as some parts become hard to follow, given the speed of delivery and unfamiliar phrasings. The adherence to Noir also means that the characters are simply drawn – one-dimensional – and overly familiar. The film’s stupendously shot: light in particular is used superbly throughout to add crazy good detail, depth and subliminal characterisation – especially during the indoor scenes. It’s also full of nice little touches, details and tricks that raise it above your average genre rip-off picture. As a crime story Brick pretty good, but it’s a film that is 100% defined as a modern take on 60-year-old conventions: sure it’s unique, stylish, funny and entertaining, but it’s also predictable, clichéd and full of stock characters because of its rigid adherence to the Noir genre. The positives do outweigh the trappings, making Brick worth a watch.